The average American checks their phone 47 times a day, and half of us even glance at it in the middle of the night. It’s estimated that we spend 11 hours per day looking at screens.
At this point, it’s common knowledge we’re all hooked.
Elementary school age to grandparents, our phones have become a permanent extension of all our hands. From buying our groceries, answering emails, checking Snapchat and Instagram, reading the news, responding to every buzz, beep, and Tweet . . . it’s just part of life.
While no one’s arguing that our phones make life easier, and provide plenty of options for real, genuine connection, just like all good things, moderation is everything.
Studies have found a strong correlation between screen usage on a phone and mental health issues.
And if you’ve been quick to scoff off the idea that you might be addicted to your phone, it’s actually no laughing matter. A number of studies have looked at the link between mental health and device usage and the findings are troubling.
One study from the CDC examined the rising rates of anxiety and depression in teens and found a strong correlation between screen usage on a phone and mental health issues.
Another study found actual differences in the brain’s chemical makeup, specifically with the neurotransmitter GABA, in those addicted to their smartphones.
An article in Forbes backs this up, stating that cells in our nucleus accumbens in our brains are activated just by viewing an Instagram photo with more likes!
The average American checks their phone 47 times a day.
How is this a problem exactly? Phone addiction and social media addiction are inextricably woven together – most screen time is attributed to scrolling on social media.
Screen time (and the corresponding time spent on social media) can heighten anxiety and depression, and make us feel isolated and lethargic. It also takes time away from ‘real life’ social interactions, and decrease our ability to focus and be present.
While it might paint a dark picture of our relationship with technology, there are steps you can take to preserve your mental wellbeing and tell your phone “it’s not me – it’s you.”
Here Are 5 Ways to Break Up With Your Phone Obsession:
1. Silence Those Pings
You know the feeling well: that little jolt when you hear a buzz or beep from your phone, alerting you of a new message, match, update, etc. What you’re actually feeling is a rapid release of stress hormones cascading through your body.
Every single smartphone notification triggers this in our bodies.
It may seem harmless – it’s just a little beep after all, but each beep equals cortisol, and if you’re getting dozens or hundreds even a day, that’s a whole lot of excess cortisol in your body, which can translate into anxiety, increased heart rate, and sweaty palms.
Take ownership of your self-care and opt to shut them off, at least while you take some time to recharge notification-free.
2. Set Your Lock Screen as a Reminder
If your lock screen image is your cat, significant other, or a recent girl’s trip to the beach – anything that makes you happy – join the club. But if you think about it, this can actually be part of the problem . . .
Each time we pick up our phones and see this, it’s probably making us feel happy and fuzzy inside, which subconsciously trains us to want to keep seeing that. Instead, set your lock screen to something that reminds you to get out there and LIVE your life.
If you’re wanting to spend more time reading or hanging with your friends or doing yoga, then literally type out those words as your lock screen, for example “Less scrolling, more reading! Go grab a book!”
If the written cue alone doesn’t stop your scroll, then put something tangible on your phone that will remind you of this – like a rubber band around it or a sticky note.
3. Create “No Phone” Zones or Times
Choose to set some chunks of time aside where you set your phone down and unplug, such as first thing when you wake up and for the first hour of your day, after 9pm, or better yet – both.
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Or, have physical areas of your life or home where you phone is not welcome, such as in the bedroom, around the dinner table (or any time you’re eating), or maybe even when you run errands.
If you want to bring your phone with you for safety reasons when you leave the house, you can put it on “do not disturb” mode and leave it in your bag or glove compartment so it’s available but only if you really need it.
4. Delete Useless Apps
Do you have multiple pages of apps? We can all pare down, because odds are you, you’re only regularly using just a handful. Delete any and all apps that don’t really improve the quality of your life and just offer distractions.
Another alternative for those you just can’t let go of – just slide them off the first page of your apps – out of sight, out of mind.
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Since you’re picking up your phone throughout the day, your home page should emit a sense of calm, not clutter. Having only your top five apps on your first page can help remove distractions on your phone.
5. Shift the Way You Think About Your Phone
One helpful tip is to start viewing your phone as an assortment of lots of little individual tools that you can use as needed, rather than one unified device.
If you need to check your texts for example, that doesn’t mean you have to also check Instagram or respond to emails. Need to look at the weather? Do that, but then put it away. It doesn’t have to consume your life.
Ready to End Your Phone Obsession?
If you’re looking to take your phone breakup a step further and address all the screens in your life that are probably draining and stressing you out, here’s how to give your life a digital detox!
We all love our phones – after all, what would we do without GPS or Spotify or the ability to look up any recipe we need at a moment’s notice!?
Loving technology isn’t something you should feel guilty for. It’s part of life for all of us, but don’t forget there’s a whole other world out there too – one without battery life, notifications, or Wi-Fi.
So go smell the fresh air, say hey to your neighbors, listen to the actual radio, do a workout sans phone in hand, or enjoy a concert without needing to boomerang the whole thing . . . you might just have a whole new experience you would have otherwise missed.